mayo 7, 2014

I hardly ever heard someone laughing that loud during an interview. Some people have the joy of reborn. They don’t give a fuck about ID photos or the numbers that identify their ages. Rashad Harden came to the world when the 80s where starting but he was reborn in 1992 when 2Pac challenged him and everyone across the world through the TV screen.

«I don’t give a fuck», he said. Criminal, martyr and forever young starring as Bishop, a lost teenager from New York streets of Juice, the film from Ernest R. Dickerson.



«I had a typical US childhood. My family was middle class, neither poor or rich. In my school it was pretty common to be part of the school band. The usual road was going from the marching band to the jazz band. When you were there you had the opportunity to travel and play in other places. That was what I really wanted to do. When I was 7 I was already playing drums. It was an enormous learning experience. It could sound weird but it was doubtless what brought me to this particular musical moment of my life».


It all began with his father and Miles Davis. The golden era of MTV made the rest. Van Halen,Guns N’Roses, Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael. Even, Dolly Parton. He founds his generation musical identity pretty funny. He’s convinced that being an «80s baby« was a blessing. When he was 11 he heard French Kiss from DJ Lil’Louis and realized that, in his heart, the turntables from Chicago beaten New Orleans jazz. A year later -pulling out a lot of little earning jobs lowing the lawn for his neighbors- he bought his first drum machine: a DR-600. Back then, that Dr. Rhythm meant to him a little fortune, like 200 dollars. When he was old enough, he started working flipping burgers at McDonalds. Whit those bills he bought vinyl records. Lots of them. He could spent hours going trough Hot Jams or Gramaphones, big record stores that don’t exist anymore.


Lil Louis / Mike Dunn / DJ Deeon / Paul Johnson / FatBoy Slim / Run D.M.C

«Back then, lots of nightclubs and skateparks for teens were opening in Chicago. I started to frequent this places when I was very young, getting my ass there with my friends. We listened to house, which made us dance a lot. We started dancing, that made us wanted to be DJs».



Footwork, that thing with 160 bpm. Baby C´Mon from Ol’Dirty Bastard sampled by the pioneer RP Boo in 1997. A bastard son of juke, house and disco music. The density of the bass replacing the velocity of the drum sticks. A constant energy trade between ideas and locomotion. A plague designed in the suburbs of Chicago. The music of DJ Rashad– trough Teklife Vol 1: Welcome to the Chi (Lit City Trax, 2012)- was accessible for all ears and all kind of shoes.

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He met DJ Spinn dancing in one of those roller skate parks that were common in the 90s. Knowing how to move your feet back then was a reason to earn more respect than a half court goal or pulling out a hard flip. He was in seven grade. That music that they heard in the nightclubs and in the streets but never sounded in the radio turned them into brothers. «Before starting high school, when footwork wasn’t footwork, we knew hot to dance it».


-Do you remember your first footwork battle?

– (big time laugh) Of course. I was leaving the jazz band. I was around 11 years old. A couple of friends and I snipped into a nightclub without knowing what we were doing. We challenged some guys that we didn’t even knew who they were, they turned out to be the best at the time. We thought we knew it all, we had those dance routines that we prepared in our homes thinking that we were going to smash the place. They destroyed us (laughs). Funny thing was that, a time later, Spinn and I formed part of that group, the House-O-Matics, my first dance crew.

Dancing was the choice until the intension of making people dance came trough, in a city and a time where being DJ -according to what Rashad says- was pretty big deal. Technics 1200, vinyl records, earning the legends respect.

«In Chicago, if you were a dancer and a DJ at the same time people used to mock you because they thought that you were doing all that to get free passes to parties. When we accomplished everything we wanted about dancing, Spinn and I abandoned the dancefloor because we wanted to put our energies on this new fase. It took a while until we finally earn the respect of everyone in town who was on the edge of juke and ghetto house, all those names we only read in the label Dancemania: DJ Deeon, Jammin Gerald, DJ Funk, DJ PJ. We felt pretty good about it».

Rashad ended up releasing his first record trough that exact label, one of the most prestigious in Chicago house music. The b side of the single, called Child Abuse (1998), came with -of course- Motherfucker from his brother. Two years later and after twenty years of history, Dancemania closed. «Can you believe it? We did everything to get in there. It was our goal. When we finally made it, we make a record and they close. It sounds like a joke», he laughs, like if it was truly a joke.



«The way he says it in that scene is incredible, I DON’T GIVE A FUCK», he mimics 2PAC’s voice, as if he were sampling it. Along twenty years of Juice, Rashad took fragments of the dialogues in the film, he sampled them and made a song called -of course- I Don’t Give A Fuck.

«What do I give a fuck about? The politics, the police, that kind of shit. What I really care? Music. Close friends. Family, without a doubt, is first thing on the list».

Chad is four years old and he lives in Chicago. He doesn’t play any instrument But it’s different back in his dad’s studio. He gets there every afternoon without permission to play with the Moog and Rashad’s samplers, the MPC 2500 or the MPC Renaissance. He seems to know what he is doing.

«I don’t show him the profane music I do (laughs). But he’s proud of me. I’m proud of him. That’s all I need».


With Double Cup (Hyperdub, 2013), DJ Rashad decided to took all the frenzy in Teklife Vol 1 and combine it with «something melancholic, not sad», and a bit R&B spirit. Some of his favourite songs of the album –Feelin’, Let U No and Double Cup– are clear examples of the duality the drink that names the record has. The fine thing about sugar and the painkilling effect of codeine, too. But also the idea of confirming more than ever the Teklife premise, that group of DJs and producers that he founded in 2012 keeping the spirit of other personal conjeture –Ghettoteknitianz– but changing one rule: now everyone in the world could be a crew member.

DJ Rashad / DJ Spinn / DJ Manny / RP Boo / DJ Gant-Man / Taso / Traxman / Heavee D /Boylan / DJ Earl / DJ Tre / DJ Taye / Lightbulb / Durban / TCJ / Tripletrain / Ashes57 / Deejay Chap / Feloneezy / Jackie Dagger

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-What plans do you have for the future?

-At this time, I’m working with Freddie Gibbs, Dany Brown and Chance The Rapper. I’m producing other people’s work, that’s my dream. As I’m still touring I couldn’t dedicate the proper time to it, but it’s starting to happen. It’s working.


-How do you picture yourself being 60 years old?

-As an old grumpy, he says.

And laughs. He laughs with that particular contagious sound. Sincere and loud.  The echo of his laugh expands through the lobby of the hotel. I think about a friend’s Twitter bio: «One day I was born. Let’s see when we do that again». His polisemy made me smile every time I read that. Less than a week later after my encounter with Rashad, in that same social network, the notice of his death started to spread. It took a while until I had an official report. So I took that long to write this article. A little bit because of the shock, another little bit because of having his voice recorded, a voice that instead of dying kept growing minute by minute. It also took a while because of the sadness. The sadness of knowing that there are people that has the joy of being born more than one time. But, more than anything, because there are things in this life that should really give us a fuck.


Text: Mariana Zalazar

Translation: Facundo Enrique Soler

Photos: María Celeste Escobar

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